The Newark Bears provide second (and third, and fourth) chances

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Yesterday the New York Times noted how the organizational philosophy of the Independent League Newark Bears was to provide a place for former big leaguers to play as they try to work their way back to The Show.  Indeed, just this season the Bears have been home to Armando Benitez, Carl Everett, Shawn Chacon, Jacque Jones, Marlon Anderson and Keith Foulke.

It seems that this philosophy extends to their front office too:

Dwight “Doc” Gooden is back in baseball at the independent minor league level.

The Newark Bears say the former Cy Young award winner, who pitched for the New York Yankees and New York Mets, will be hired as senior vice president of the Atlantic League franchise on Thursday.

Team spokesman Jesse Suskin says Gooden will serve as the Bears’ community ambassador in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city. The 44-year-old Gooden will work with youth baseball camps and leagues.

This is not merely some charity or publicity-driven job, as Gooden has worked in youth baseball in Tampa for the past several years.  Moreover, if you’re going to cultivate interest and excitement about your team and your programs in the New York/NJ area, it would be hard to find a better guy to do it than Doc Gooden.  For all of his foibles, people simply love the guy in New York.

On a more basic level, it’s good to finally hear news stories about Gooden that don’t involve trouble with the law or with substance abuse or what have you.  I hope this job works for him and I hope it keeps him in and around baseball for a long time.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.